Ryan Ashley and the Magical Scrunchie Exchange: Part 1
The day I met Ryan Ashley Malarkey for the first time was a day unlike any other. It was the annual Empire State Tattoo Expo hosted by Inked Magazine at the Midtown Hilton in NYC. This was big! Huge! It was the first expo for Connect’Ink™ and we had just signed a sponsorship with Inked Magazine that got us a booth on “Inked Row,” where there were some of the heaviest hitters in the games: Pony Lawson, Saga Anderson, Megan Massacre and the crew from Grit’N’Glory, and of course, my personal favorite, Ryan Ashely Malarkey.
Though I did not know the extent of the excitement that awaited me later that day, I still had major butterflies in my stomach. It was my first time experiencing a tattoo expo and this just wasn't any tattoo expo, this was the biggest tattoo expo in the industry, and I would be there representing Connect’Ink™ all weekend; elbow to elbow with the world’s best tattoo artists.
Shortly after arriving at the hotel, it was time to go and set up the booth with Matt Benacquista, the Founder and CEO of Connect’Ink™. Matt and I made our way to the elevators and as we awaited anxiously for the familiar “ping,” I snapped a picture of the two of us. I wanted to capture the pure childlike excitement we were experiencing in anticipation for this incredible, life changing event. I remember thinking, “This is one of those moments I will look back on and cherish forever. Let me capture it right here and now before the gravity of the moment gets any heavier.” This is how I felt and I knew Matt, as strong and confident and stoic as he normally was, felt the same way too - giddy and nervous like a teenage schoolgirl on a first date.
“Ping!” We both looked at each other and took a deep breath as the elevator doors opened. We loaded our cart (packed with booth supplies - stickers, banners, pamphlets, t-shirts) into the elevator, I pressed the button for “The Promenade,” and nervously watched the doors close. This was so surreal! OMG, this was really happening! Within seconds, “Ping,” again! Another round of deep breaths, doors open, and there we were! Off the elevator and onto the promenade. It was already busy and filled with life. People had begun to gather and wait on line - mostly tattoo artists and vendors getting their registration in order and picking up their wrist bands and supplies for the weekend.
We didn’t have to register. We were VIP (at least in my mind we were).